Biofuels becoming big business

Not last weekend but the weekend before, I caught up with Ben, Anna and Matthew over a cup of coffee. During the course of the conversation I happened to ask Ben, who’s my authority when it comes to cars, about Ethanol and why some people and lobby groups claim that too much ethanol in your fuel mix can damage your engine. His response was that he thought it can corrode some materials used in the engine. More interestingly, he introduced me to the concept of biodiesel: diesel produced from vegetable oils and animal fats. It can be used as a straight replacement for standard diesel which you buy from the bowser. Hobbyists have been making their own biodiesel for years from new or used vegetable oil. Our conversation piqued my interest, and I’ve since been doing some investigating and keeping a lookout for any news stories to do with biodiesel. Well, this morning there was a story in the finance section of news.com.au. It turns out that it’s not just hobbyists who are interested in biodiesel. It’s on its way to becoming big business, driven by high world oil prices and the push for more environmentally friendly fuels. The EU has passed legislation to ensure that biodiesel constitutes no less than 5.75% of all fuel consumption by 2010 in an effort to meet its Kyoto requirements. This has seen the European market for biodiesel grow to $A5 billion per year. There are some Australian companies already getting in on the act. See the news story for more information.

Karen’s 1985 Corolla, which runs on unleaded and an additive (because the engine was designed for Super), is performing admirably for the moment, but we’re resigned to the fact that we’ll need a replacement within the next few years. I’ve been considering the purchase of a diesel car for some time now. They are generally more efficient than petrol engines, which means you need to fill up less frequently. They’re popular in Europe and they seem set to make an impact in Australia beyond 4WDs and heavy vehicles. I’ve got my eye on the Peugeot 307 XSR HDi. :-)

Until you can buy biodiesel from the pump, you’ll have to make it yourself. I’m not sure that having a biodiesel lab in the backyard will go down too well. But making your own fuel certainly has cool factor.